Calf Top

Bluebells in Ellers

Well, I’m getting further and further behind, and after the gloriously sunny weekend we’ve just had it seems odd to be writing about a morning walk under a lid of grey skies, with a cold wind and the threat of rain in the afternoon.

After leaving Barbon and passing the bluebell filled wood seen above, a short sharp climb brought me to a small cairned outcrop with a marvellous view of the Lune Valley, Morecambe Bay beyond and, to the south, the edge of the Bowland Fells.

Looking down to Barbon and the Lune valley. Forest of Bowland on the far horizon 

From there the gradient eased and a steady plod…

The onward path up Castle Knott 

..took me up to Castle Knott, seen on the skyline here…

Castle Knott 

Although it’s on the edge of the Dales, this is a very quiet hill. In my experience it’s neighbours Great Coum and Gragareth tend to be pretty deserted too.

Great Coum and Gragareth 

From Castle Knott the highest point on the ridge, Calf Top finally comes into view. There’s a fairly striking change in the vegetation somewhere between the two, the grassy slopes of Castle Knott giving way to a mixture of grass and heather. Predictably, the change is marked underfoot too, the ground becoming peaty and waterlogged where the heather holds sway.

Calf Top 

From Castle Knott I thought I saw somebody following me up the path, although they were some way behind and I lost sight of them so couldn’t be sure. I could also see a figure on the skyline west of the summit. But they weren’t moving at all. Is it a person? I decided not – perhaps a large cairn?

Looking back down the ridge 

The views from Calf Top itself are excellent although this wasn’t the best day to enjoy them, both because of the cloud and because the wind was so cold. I had no gloves (silly me) and using the camera was turning my hands red raw and making them surprisingly painful. Could this really be the middle of May? Only the skylarks, whose song I’d heard from the lower slopes, seemed to think that it was really spring.

The top of Whernside, seen over Gragareth, was continually disappearing and reappearing in the cloud. But the views of the Howgills and the hills and valleys to the north were good. To the south I felt that a distant and distinctive hill must be Pendle Hill. I wanted to spread out my map and try to fix some of the hills to the northeast which are less familiar to me, but it was just too windy.

Calf Top Trig Pillar 


Great Knoutberry Hill 

Is this knobble at the end of Dentdale, Great Knoutberry Hill?

Whenever I’ve walked this way before I’ve always used the right of way which traverses the hill in a great arc from southwest to northwest, leaving a lengthy valley walk to return to the start. It’s a nice enough walk, although in the past I’ve found that not all of the valley paths exist on the ground. The fells here are all access land now though, so – time to explore, I thought.

I headed off along the broad tussocky ridge to the west….

The West Ridge 

Pausing by the little tarns to look back to the top and see the walker who had followed me arrive at the top (having come up much quicker than I had). He or she was the only other walker I saw all day – unless we count the three waxed-jacketed, welly-booted, rifle-toting hunters I saw further down, who had a gaggle of dogs of a strange mixture of breeds with them. (Not all gun-dogs I’d have thought, but then, what do I know?)

Looking back to the top 

I found the very stationary ‘walker’ I had noticed from Castle Knott…

Tall cairn

…which curiously, isn’t marked on the OS map. Does that mean that it’s of recent construction?

I’d thought, on looking at the map, that the right of way from the lane end at Mill House briefly passed into the access area. It doesn’t. There’s a very unwelcoming sign pointing out that there is no access through the gateway and advising walkers to consult their maps and return to the rights of way, which would involve quite a hike. I consulted my map and then carefully levitated over the gate and the five yards of driveway necessary to get onto the path I wanted. Millhouse Gill has a few waterfalls and looked like a worthwhile alternative route onto the hill, perhaps combined with an exploration of Ashdale Gill, if only to find out what the ‘Three Little Boys’ marked on the map are.

Of course, now that I know that there’s no right of access here, I’ve put that idea right out of my mind, and I would urge you to do the same, obviously.


Oh….an afterthought: this was another failed bagging trip, at 609m Calf Top just fails to make the 2000 foot criteria for my ‘new’ Nuttall’s book. Damn!

Calf Top

9 thoughts on “Calf Top

  1. Cool days like that seem aeons ago in this current weather! Never been up there myself, or up Gragareth, although I’ve always wanted to do Gragareth just ‘cos I like the name!

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Two nice routes for Gragareth, Great Coum, Crag Hill, Green Hill: either, park near Bullpot Farm, drop down to Ease Gill Kirk and then follow Ease Gill all the way up before breaking out and up to Crag Hill, or park down in Dent explore the tarns on Whernside’s northern shoulder, say hello to the crowds on top, then drop of to the west and head up Great Coum before dropping on the track back down into Dent (long, but good).

  2. Very nice walk there, Calf Top is almost forgotten by most except baggers, but we found it a great hill. It was rigorously surveyed again recently I think, confirmed as 609m.
    That non-access to the footpath at Mill House is a bit bloody minded, the map shows it can’t be more than a few yards.
    I have a book here that describes a direct valley return along the old railway trackbed, it was supported with cooperation from the local farmers – have you tried it?.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      It’s probably the nearest substantial hill to home so I’ve been up there a few times over the years. The business over the access does seem extremely bloody minded – it’s not likely that hordes will come this way and it is just through a gate and past two cottages (holiday lets, looked like they were both empty). I wonder whether the owners are worried about walkers parking on the lane which comes up to their property?
      I looked at the railway line on the map and thought that it looked ideal – next time I will definitely give it a go.

      1. beatingthebounds says:

        It’s odd Geoff that hills like this are not more popular – sitting on the edge of the Lune valley it has fabulous all round views. I suppose that there’s no accounting for taste – why isn’t Wildboar Fell more popular, for example.

  3. I used to look at these hills on my journey’s to and from the Lakes when I lived in Silsden but never climbed them. Always looked like a lovely long amble along the tops and so it seems.

    Don’t get me started on perversely awkward landowners…..

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      It is a cracking little walk. Not boggy for the most part either, which is a bonus as far as I’m concerned.

  4. I forgot to mention that in spite of the local support there are/were obstacles to overcome on the rail trackbed route, including an electric fence. Also at the time the book was written it was owned by British Rail, I don’t know the situation now. Might be worth doing some research first!.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Hmmm – I did some research: )-:
      At least I found a blog I didn’t know (-:
      The phrase:”…walkers were clearly as welcome as crows” accompanied by a photo of a dead crow hung from a barbed wire fence, neatly sums up the way I’ve always felt about this area. The field paths here often don’t exist, I’ve encountered a bull in a tiny field through which the path passed and have had encounters with aggressive dogs in farm yards.

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